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Measure Guideline: Replacing

Single-Speed Pool Pumps


with Variable Speed Pumps
for Energy Savings
A. Hunt and S. Easley
Building America Retrofit Alliance (BARA)

May 2012
NOTICE

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Measure Guideline: Replacing Single-Speed Pool Pumps with Variable
Speed Pumps for Energy Savings

Prepared for:
Building America
Building Technologies Program
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
U.S. Department of Energy

Prepared by:
A. Hunt and S. Easley
Building Media and the Building America Retrofit Alliance (BARA)
4301 Lancaster Pike, Bldg. 721
Wilmington, De 19805

NREL Technical Monitor: Cheryn Engebrecht


Prepared under Subcontract No. KNDJ-0-40336-00

May 2012

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Contents
List of Figures ............................................................................................................................................ vi
List of Tables ............................................................................................................................................. vii
Definitions ................................................................................................................................................. viii
Forward ....................................................................................................................................................... ix
Progression Summary ................................................................................................................................ x
1 Introduction ........................................................................................................................................... 1
2 Cost and Performance ......................................................................................................................... 2
2.1 Typical Energy Usage of Single-Speed Pool Pumps ...........................................................2
2.2 Energy Savings of Variable Speed Pool Pumps ..................................................................3
2.3 Pump Affinity Law Applied ................................................................................................3
2.4 Energy and Cost Savings Comparison .................................................................................4
2.5 Performance Comparisons ...................................................................................................5
3 Installation of Variable Speed Pool Pumps ....................................................................................... 6
3.1 Inspecting the Pool Area ......................................................................................................6
3.2 Measuring the Pool and Calculating Pool Volume ..............................................................6
3.3 Evaluating Energy Usage of Existing Pool Pump ...............................................................8
3.4 Estimate Energy Usage and Savings of a New Pool Pump .................................................9
3.5 Remove an Existing Pool Pump ..........................................................................................9
3.6 Installing a Variable Speed Pump ......................................................................................11
3.7 Connecting Fittings and Making Electrical Connections ..................................................11
3.8 Calibrating Variable Speed Pump for Optimum Performance ..........................................11
3.9 Verification and Filtration Flow Rate Testing ...................................................................12
3.10 Programmable Pumps and Maintenance ................................................................13
Attachment A: Prescriptive Measure Checklist ..................................................................................... 15
Attachment B: Pool Pump Installation Case Study ............................................................................... 18
Attachment C: Material Specifications ................................................................................................... 20
References ................................................................................................................................................. 21

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List of Figures
Figure 1. A variable speed pool pump can obtain similar gpm rates as a single-speed pump but at
greater energy efficiencies. ................................................................................................................. 5
Figure 2. Inspecting the equipment pad for potential health and safety risks is critical before
beginning work. .................................................................................................................................... 6
Figure 3. How to determine total volume in gallons ................................................................................ 7
Figure 4. The RMS kilowatt meter can quickly and easily determine the pool pump’s electrical
consumption rate.................................................................................................................................. 8
Figure 5. Extreme caution should be used when using the RMS kilowatt meter to determine pool
pump electrical usage. ......................................................................................................................... 8
Figure 6. A reciprocating saw often works well to cut PVC pipe during the installation process. .... 9
Figure 7. Thread sealant or pipe glue will help ensure fittings remain connected and leak-free..... 10
Figure 8. Make sure the ground bonding wire is securely fastened to the pump’s bonding lug. .... 11
Figure 9. The skimmer is the port that draws water from the pool and into the filtration system. .. 11

Unless otherwise noted, all figures were created by the BARA team.

vi
List of Tables
Table 1. Pool Pump Replacement vs. Upgrading to an ENERGY STAR Home .................................... 2
Table 2. The Pump Affinity Law - Applied ............................................................................................... 4
Table 3. Single-Speed Pool Pump Replacement with Variable Speed Pump Operating Cost
comparison ......................................................................................................................................... 18
Table 4. Waterfall Pump Operating Cost Comparison. ......................................................................... 19

Unless otherwise noted, all tables were created by the BARA team.

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Definitions

APSP The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals

DSIRE The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency

GPM Gallons per minute

KW Kilowatt

KWH Kilowatt hour

LED Light Emitting Diode

NRDC Natural Resources Defense Council

PMM Permanent Magnet Motor

RMS Root Mean Square

RPM Revolutions per minute

TDH Total Dynamic Head

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Forward
One of the most significant consumers of energy in homes with swimming pools are
pool pumps, which keep pools clean by circulating water through filters. Pool pumps
can consume 3,000 to over 5,000 kWh per year. In addition, pumps may also circulate
water through heaters, cleaners (also known as sweeps), water features, or fountains.
Typically these pumps may have 1- or 2-horsepower (hp) motors that run at least five to
six hours per day, if not around the clock, consuming energy.

The authors hope that this document is useful to a wide audience: builders, remodelers,
home performance contractors, and homeowners. However, some of the procedures
presented here require specialized equipment or expertise. In addition, some alterations
to existing pool filtration, heating, and circulation systems may require a specialized
license; those implementing pool pump exchanges or replacements should not go
beyond their expertise or qualifications.

This document begins with a discussion on the overall function and purpose of pool
pumps. It continues with an analysis of energy consumption and efficiency ratings of
traditional pool pumps and highlights how pool pumps can contribute to increasingly
high energy costs for the homeowner. The document will evaluate potential energy
savings by replacing traditional single-speed pool pumps with variable speed pool
pumps, and provide a basic cost comparison between continued uses of traditional
pumps versus new pumps. A simple step-by-step process for inspecting the pool area
and installing a new pool pump will follow.

The overall procedure for assessing and replacing existing pool pumps is as follows:
1. Inspect the pool area and identify possible hazards, then ensure the area is ready
for maintenance and pool pump replacement.
2. Calculate the volume of the swimming pool to determine the total amount of
flow required to adequately circulate water through the filtration system.
3. Determine the wattage use of the existing pool pump and amount of usage on a
daily basis to estimate total annual energy use of the pump.
4. Estimate expected usage of new pump to calculate expected energy use and
savings.
5. Remove existing pool pump.
6. Install new variable speed pool pump.
7. Calibrate flow of new pool pump to obtain adequate circulation at lowest
possible motor speed.

Acknowledgements
Special thanks to Jeff Farlow of Pentair Water Pool and Spa for providing subject
matter expertise, content, data, and graphics.

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Progression Summary

x
1 Introduction
According to a 2008 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 1, there are more
than 4.5 million in-ground residential pools in the United States, and they consume between $1.1
and $1.6 billion in energy costs per year. Energy use
will differ because of variations in swimming season Understanding the importance
length, energy rates, whether or not (and how) pools are of a properly functioning pool
heated, and other environmental factors. However, the circulation system
NRDC has estimated that, nationwide, residential in-
ground swimming pools consume between 9 and 14 Although the Association of Pool
billion kilowatt hours (k-Wh) and between 36 and 63 and Spa Professionals (APSP)
suggests that the pump be
million therms of natural gas each year for pool heating. “capable” of turning over the
This results in national CO2 emissions of roughly 10 entire volume of water in the
million tons per year—the equivalent of 1.3 million cars pool two times in 24 hours, the
and light trucks on the road. In homes with pools, a pool actual turnover rate can be
pump can be the second largest energy user and most slower when conditions permit.
Pools that inadequately filtered
often is the largest energy user in the home. can incubate dangerous
pathogens (disease-causing
Pool pumps provide an important function for in-ground microorganisms) and pose a
pools by circulating water through the pool’s filtration health risk for bathers. Algae,
system. The filtration system keeps the water clean, bacteria, viruses, and fungi can
thrive in a poorly filtered
clear, and sanitary for bathers by screening debris that swimming pool, often introduced
falls into the pool and also removing algae and into pool water by rain, wind-
microorganisms that can pose potential health threats to borne debris, bathing suits, or
swimmers. In addition, pumps may also circulate water poor quality water used when
through heaters, cleaners (also known as sweeps), water filling. Chemical disinfectants
and chlorination can help to
features, or fountains. These single-speed pumps reduce the threat of disease and
traditionally have a 1- or 2-horsepower motor that will illness, but, a properly
run at least five to six hours per day, if not around the maintained and functioning pool
clock, consuming energy. pump and filtration system is
critical to keeping the swimming
water safe and clean.
For a relatively small investment, a variable speed pool
pump can reduce pool pump energy use by 50% to 75%.
The majority of the savings is derived from a variable
speed pump’s ability to reduce the rpm of the motor, thus reducing energy use. A typical 1½-
horsepower pool pump draws about 2,000 watts and runs at 3,450 rpm. Reducing the pump
speed and flow has a tremendous impact on wattage draw due to the Pump Affinity Law. For
example, if you reduce the pump speed from 3,450 rpm to 2,400 rpm (30% reduction in speed)
the wattage drops from 2,000 watts to 593 watts (70% reduction in power).

Replacing a single-speed pump with a modern variable speed pump is relatively quick and
simple. In order to successfully complete the task, the installer must calculate the number of
gallons of water in the pool and calibrate the new pump to circulate water at an appropriate rate.

1
J. Rivera, C. Calwell, L. Moorefield, Synergies in Swimming Pool Efficiency: How Much Can Be Saved?, Natural Resources
Defense Council, 2008

1
When completed, the variable speed pump will provide the same service as the traditional pump
but at a substantial energy savings for the homeowner.

2 Cost and Performance


Replacing a single-speed pool pump with a variable speed pool pump can create equal or greater
potential energy savings than realized by updating an existing home to an ENERGYSTAR® -
rated home. 2 This section will explore the cost and performance benefits associated with
replacing a single-speed pool pump with a variable speed pump as well as discuss the physics
behind the Pump Affinity Law and Table 1. Pool Pump Replacement vs. Upgrading to an
other benefits of pool pump ENERGY STAR Home
replacement not related to energy. City Climate Swimming Energy Star
Zone Pool Home
2.1 Typical Energy Usage of Phoenix 3 $390 $509
Single-Speed Pool Pumps Los Angeles 4 $633 $529
The primary reason that most single- Orlando/Tampa 2 $621 $679
Islip (NY) 11 $454 $686
speed pool pumps consume an
San Antonio 4 $491 $704
excessive amount of electricity is that
they are typically oversized and
overused in the course of pool operation. A pool pump is called upon to perform multiple water
circulation duties during the operation of the pool. While the primary function of the pool pump
is to simply circulate water through the filtration system, other tasks can include powering spa
jets, backwashing the filter, operating a chlorinator, providing water for the pool sweeper,
circulating water through the heater, initiating flow to a solar panel and pumping water to
waterfalls and other water features. These occasional tasks require more energy (a greater flow
rate) than the circulation of pool water through the filtration system and account for roughly 10%
of the pool pump’s operation time. Often, pools have multiple pumps to provide some of the
functions listed above.

Single-speed pumps by design can’t change their flow rate so they must be sized to perform the
most demanding task. This means that during 90% of the operational time, single-speed pool
pumps provide greater circulation than the pool filtration system requires.

Two-speed pool pumps.


Although not common, installers may encounter a two-speed pool pump during the inspection
and replacement process. Two-speed pumps have been available for years and are marketed as
an alternative to more expensive variable speed pumps. The two-speed pump uses an induction
motor and is basically two motors in one with a standard 3,450 rpm (full-speed) motor and a
1,725 rpm (half-speed) option. Ideally these motors may enable significant energy savings for the
homeowner, however, if the half-speed motor is unable to complete the required water circulation
task, the larger motor will operate exclusively. Because there is are only two speed choices it is
much more difficult to fine-tune the flow rates required for maximum energy savings.

2
Replacing a single-speed pump with a variable speed model and covering a heated pool, can generate savings
comparable to those possible by upgrading a 2,500-square-foot, single story home to Energy Star levels.

2
A standard pool pump is typically 1½ to 2 hp and operates using a single-speed induction motor
generating excessive filtration flow rates. This volume of water is achieved by a 3,450 rpm rate
that requires between 1,500 and 2,500 watts of electricity depending on the service factor of the
motor.

2.2 Energy Savings of Variable Speed Pool


Reducing Total Dynamic Head
Pumps (TDH) to gain additional energy
A variable speed pool pump will allow the homeowner to savings
achieve the ideal filtration flow rate with the least amount
of energy consumption. Variable speed pumps utilize The Total Dynamic Head (TDH)
refers to the friction or resistance
either Permanent Magnet Motors (PMM), which use water encounters as it circulates
permanent magnets to create a magnetic field between the through the pool’s plumbing
rotor and the windings. This configuration is similar to system. Small diameter pipes,
the motors used in hybrid cars. Efficiencies are gained by hard 90 degree turns, certain
filtration devices and high flow
the magnets working to spin the rotor, as opposed to a rates can all increase the TDH. It
standard induction motor that requires additional is advantageous to reduce the
electricity to induce the magnetic field into the rotor. The TDH to optimize flow, reduce
PMM motor design is much more energy efficient when wear and tear on the plumping
components and save energy.
compared to the standard induction motor, achieving
efficiency ratings of 90% while the average single-speed
pump will have efficiency ratings between 30% and 70%. With a variable speed pump, any
resistance removed from the
PMM pumps can produce the same gpm flow rate as pool’s plumbing will increase the
single-speed induction motors if needed; they simply run system’s energy efficiency.
much more efficiently. Installing a new pump and
working at the equipment pad by
replacing hard angle connections
The largest energy savings of installing a PMM pump with sweep elbows, increasing
comes from the ability to program and reduce the flow pipe size and upgrading to low
rate to match the required pumping task. Unlike a single- head-loss filters can create
additional energy savings.
speed pump that will operate at maximum flow rate even
for tasks that require minimum flow rates, the variable
speed pump can be slowed down to the optimum level
balancing flow rate needs with energy use. In order to fully appreciate how significant these
energy savings can be, it is important to understand the physics behind the Pump Affinity Law.

2.3 Pump Affinity Law Applied


The Pump Affinity Law is a term used to express the relationship between motor speed, flow
rates, and energy consumption. While some energy savings come directly from improved motor
efficiency, the majority of energy savings gained by replacing a single-speed pump with a
variable speed pump is due to the Pump Affinity Law. This law quantifies that power
consumption drops at a nonlinear rate as you reduce pump speed and water flow. When you cut
the motor speed in half, the flow rate is also reduced to half, but the power consumption of the
pool pump is reduced to 1/8th of the original draw. The following chart demonstrates how the
pump speed and flow rates directly impact power usage. Remember, most single-speed pumps
have a standard 3,450 rpm speed that cannot be adjusted, even when a flow rate is much less than
66 gpm is required, as depicted in the example in Table 1.

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Table 2. The Pump Affinity Law - Applied

Speed Flow Power


(rpm) (gpm) (W)
3,450 66 2,000
3,000 55* 1,157
2,400 44 593
1,800 33 250
1,200 22 74
600 11 9
*A reduction in 450 rpm almost
unnoticed in the application, cuts the
power almost in half.

2.4 Energy and Cost Savings Comparison


The following example illustrates how replacing a single-speed pump with a variable speed
pump can create significant energy savings.

The average residential swimming pool contains 25,000 gallons of water and has a suggested
turnover rate of 24 hours. A single-speed pump drawing 2,000 watts, operating at 3,450 rpms
and generating a flow rate of 66 gallons per minute can turn over the entire 25,000 gallons of
water in roughly 6.3 hours.

(25,000 gallons / 66 gpm) /60 minutes = 6.3 hours

At this rate the single-speed pump would consume 12,600 watt hours or 12.6 kWh per day, to
turn over the pool.

6.3 hours x 2,000 watts = 12,600 watt hours (12.6 kWh)

However, because of the Pump Affinity Law, slower flow rates create greater energy savings. In
the field, a variable speed pump set at a flow rate of 22 gpm will draw 116 watts and turn the
pool over in 19 hours but only consume 2.2 kWh of electricity.

(25,000 gallons / 22 gpm) /60 minutes = 19 hours

19 hours x 116 watts = 2,200 watt hours (2.2 kWh)

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This is a savings of 10.4 kWh per day, or approximately 3,796 kWh per year. The average retail
price of electricity to residential customers in California, where there are an estimated 1.1 million
in ground pools, is 14.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. Following this example, the homeowner could
realize a savings of $561 annually on their electric bill.

Saving energy is a wonderful goal but should not happen at the expense of swimming pool
sanitation and water clarity.

2.5 Performance Comparisons


Most water clarity problems are caused by improper chemical maintenance, not by debris and silt
hovering around indefinitely. Particles large enough to be captured by a filter will sink when the
pump is off. This is not to say that the filtration and circulation systems do not impact water
clarity; when not run long or fast enough to allow effective chemical feeder/generator operation,
they do.. However, it is a common misconception that a slower turnover rate will allow for more
contaminants to remain in the pool longer and result in less than ideal water clarity.

When comparing performance issues between single-


speed and variable speed pumps, there are no negative
performance issues associated with the variable speed
pump. When properly calibrated, the variable speed
pump can increase flow rates to be equal to or greater
than the existing single-speed pump. However, the
performance advantages of a variable speed pump go
beyond energy savings. Variable speed pumps are
noticeably quieter, require less maintenance, last longer,
and, through slower water filtration rates, allow for better Figure 1. A variable speed pool pump
and more effective filtration of the pool water. The can obtain similar gpm rates as a
slower circulation rates also put less strain on the filters, single-speed pump but at greater
plumbing, and other parts of the system, which reduces energy efficiencies.
the chance of leaks, repairs, or premature plumbing Photo from Jeff Farlow, Pentair Water and
component replacement. Spa, printed with permission

Pricing of variable speed pumps remains higher and can be a barrier to adoption during a home
retrofit. Although prices may vary, the average cost, with installation, to replace a single-speed
pump will range from $400 to $700. A two-speed pump installation will generally range between
$700 and $1,000, while installation of a variable speed pump, complete with onboard controller
and programmable task manager, can cost between $1,400 and $1,800. In order to offset the
additional costs, many utility companies are now providing incentives for installing variable
speed pumps. Examples of incentives range from $75 in Nevada to $600 in Florida. The
Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) has more information on the
availability of rebate programs for installing variable speed pool pumps at
http://www.dsireusa.org/.

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3 Installation of Variable Speed Pool Pumps
The pool pump replacement process requires a complete inspection of the outdoor swimming
pool area followed by an evaluation of the energy usage and filtration flow rate of the existing
pump. It also requires the removal of the existing pump and, finally, the installation and
calibration of the variable speed pump. This section will include safety and health practices as
well as pool volume calculation methods that are required during the inspection and replacement
of the pool pump.

3.1 Inspecting the Pool Area


The health and safety of the pool
pump installer, as well as the
occupants, should be a critical part
of the pool pump replacement
process. Prior to beginning pump
installation, the installer should
carefully inspect the entire pool
area for exposed wiring, trip
hazards, pests, or animals. A
thorough inspection of the pool
pump containment area and any
exposed plumbing should also be
done to ensure that any leaks or
damage to existing pool plumbing
are identified and repaired. Finally,
the installer should locate the main
electrical circuit breaker panel and Photo by Steve Easley
identify and confirm which breaker Figure 2. Inspecting the equipment pad for potential health
is designated for the pool pump. and safety risks is critical before beginning work.

3.2 Measuring the Pool and Calculating Pool Volume


There are two important reasons why an installer must accurately calculate the volume, in
gallons, of water in the pool. First, the pool pump must have the correct flow rate (volume of
water that passes through the pump) in order to meet the proper turnover rate and maintain
clarity and sanitary conditions in the pool. If the pump is unable to turn over the entire volume of
water within a 24-hour period, the risk of algae and pathogens can increase. A turnover every 24
hours is the minimum flow rate for the pool pump. To calculate the minimum flow rate of the
pool pump, divide the total volume of the pool in gallons by 1,440 (total minutes in a day).

Total volume of pool / 1440 = Minimum Filtration Flow Rate (gpm)

The minimum filtration flow rate is the least amount of water (gpm) the pool pump must
circulate through the filtration system in order to achieve the minimum daily turnover.

The second reason for calculating the pool volume is to determine the maximum pool filtration
rate. The pool pump should not have a filtration rate greater than the rate needed to turn over the

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pool water volume in six hours, or 36 gallons per minute (gpm), whichever is greater. This
equation was developed by the California Energy Commission and was adopted by the
Association of Pool and Spa Professionals to help set guidelines for achieving the maximum
energy efficiency in pool pump operation. To calculate the maximum filtration flow rate, divide
the total volume of water in the pool by 360.

Total volume of pool /360 = Maximum Filtration Flow Rate (gpm)

For pools with less than 13,000 gallons, the pump must
have a gpm rating of 36 gpm, or less.

In order to determine the maximum and minimum pool


filtration rates, the installer must first calculate the
entire volume of pool water in cubic feet, and then
multiply by 7.48 (number of gallons of water contained
in one cubic foot of water) to determine the total
number of gallons. For simple, flat-bottomed,
rectangular swimming pools this is a relatively easy
calculation to perform by simply measuring and Figure 3. How to determine total
volume in gallons
multiplying the length, width and depth of the pool.

length x width x depth of water = cubic feet of pool (volume of water)

Volume of water in cubic feet x 7.48 = Total volume in gallons

For instance, a rectangular pool that is 24 feet long by 16 feet wide with a consistent depth of 5
feet would have a total volume of 1,920 cubic feet of water when completely filled.

24 x 16 x 5 = 1,920 cubic feet

Once the total cubic feet of water has been calculated, that amount can be multiplied by 7.48
(gallons per cubic foot of water) to determine the total number of gallons in the pool.

1,920 x 7.48 = 14,362 gallons of water

However, because pools come in countless designs, shapes and depths, calculating pool volume
is rarely so simple. In order to calculate oblong, circular, sloped, nonlinear sloped and custom
pool designs, more advanced mathematical calculations are required. There are several free pool
volume calculation tools available online, including on the Pentair Pool and Spa website at
(http://www.pentairpool.com/pool-owner/resources/calculators/pool-volume-calc/poolcalc.htm).

Once the total pool volume in gallons has been determined, the installer can calculate the
maximum and minimum filtration rates. This information will help calibrate the new pool pump
to make sure it is operating at peak performance from both a healthful and energy efficient
standpoint.

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3.3 Evaluating Energy Usage of Existing Pool Pump
The conventional way to calculate the amount of watts an appliance or electrical device uses is to
multiply amps times volts. While this method works for an electrical direct current (DC) circuit,
it is not an accurate way to calculate energy use of alternating current (AC) motors.

The equation for motors is:


Amps x Volts x Power Factor = Watts

Although every motor has a power factor rating, it can be


difficult to access this information for every pump on the
market, as the service factors and load factors all vary.

The best way to determine kW usage is with an RMS


kilowatt meter, which tells you instantly how many kW’s
the pump is using. Using a kW meter is just like using an
Amp meter but you must measure both volts and amps.
First, put the meter dial on kW and turn the pump on.
Next. place the black and red leads on the terminals
supplying voltage to the pump (this can be done at the
Figure 4. The RMS kilowatt meter time clock or relay, depending on the installation). Then,
can quickly and easily determine
the pool pump’s electrical clamp the meter around one of the hot wires and read the
consumption rate. pump’s kW usage. As with any electrical wiring
evaluation, extreme
Photo from Jeff Farlow, Pentair
Water and Spa, printed with care should be
permission taken when using
the RMS kilowatt
meter, especially around areas that have standing water.

Once the wattage use of the pump has been determined, it


is possible to calculate the kilowatt hours, daily and
annual energy consumption of the motor, and the
estimated cost of the pool pump operation.
Figure 5. Extreme caution should be
For example, after using the RMS kilowatt meter on a used when using the RMS kilowatt
1½-hp single-speed pump; a reading of 2.07 kW is meter to determine pool pump
measured. In order to determine the energy consumption electrical usage.
and estimated cost, first convert that reading to kilowatt- Photo from Jeff Farlow, Pentair Water
hours. and Spa, printed with permission
2.07 kilowatts X 1 hour =2.07 kWh.

As such, in one hour, the pump will consume 2.07 kWh. Next, determine the average number of
hours the pump is used daily. This can be done by reviewing the timer and by interviewing the
homeowner. If the pump normally runs for six hours a day, then multiply 2.07 by 6.

2.07 kWh x 6 hours = 12.42 kWh per day

8
A common question related to pool pump power usage relates to how a 1½-hp motor can draw
2.07 kilowatts. This is because motors also have a service factor (SF) rating or overload capacity
designed into the motor. There is a practice in the swimming pool pump industry of using high
service factors where the total horsepower (and subsequent kW demand) is much greater than the
nameplate would imply. For general-purpose motors, service factors would rarely be higher than
1.15. However, swimming pool motors are definite purpose motors designed exclusively for use
in the pool industry. These motors are designed with exceptionally large service factors as high
as 1.65 or 1.9. The result is that a 1½-hp pump with a service factor (SF) of 1.47 can easily draw
around 2,100 watts or 2.1 kW.

Rated HP x SF x 746 Watts per HP /Motor Efficiency = Watts

1.5 HP x 1.47 x 746 Watts per HP / 78% = 2108 Watts

3.4 Estimate Energy Usage and Savings of a New Pool Pump


Once the energy usage of the existing pool pump has been determined, it is easy to calculate the
expected energy savings associated with installing the new variable speed pool pump. To do this,
first use the pool volume calculation to determine the acceptable filtration rate. Once the flow
rate has been determined, you can calculate expected energy usage by referencing the product
manual of the new pool pump.

In general, the slower turnover rates associated with variable speed pool pumps should reduce
energy usage between 30% and 70% annually, however there are many variables to consider.
Because there is such a wide range of pool circulation systems, conditions, and filtration needs,
specific savings and performance data can only be accurately determined after the variable speed
pool pump has been installed. Pool volume, ambient temperature, use, age of system, water
quality, covering, local environment (trees, grass, dirt, sand) and accessories (waterfalls,
cleaners, scrubbers, fountains) all impact potential cost savings. Calculating the exact energy
savings before installation may not be possible; however, comparing the existing pump usage
with potential savings based on the model and type of pool pump to be installed can help
encourage homeowners to invest in pool pump replacement.

3.5 Remove an Existing Pool Pump


Being prepared for the removal of the existing pool pump
and installation of the new variable speed pump can make
the task simpler and faster. The actual process of removing
and replacing the pump is not a difficult task; however,
care should be taken to ensure the safety of the worker and
occupants of the home and their property. Removal and
replacement of the pool pump requires the tools needed for Figure 6. A reciprocating saw often
rewiring any basic electric circuit and cutting and gluing works well to cut PVC pipe during the
PVC pipe. These include: installation process.
Photo from Jeff Farlow, Pentair Water
• Electrical meter: preferably True RMS clamp-on and Spa, printed with permission
kW and multi-function style meter.

9
• Miscellaneous: Screwdrivers, slip-joint pliers, channel-lock pliers, wire cutters, wire
strippers, wrenches, sand paper.

• Pipe cutter: ratcheting PVC cutter, reciprocating saw, chop saw or hacksaw.

Before removing the pump, verify the electrical supply voltage and wire and circuit breaker size
and ensure that these are compatible with the replacement variable speed pump and in
accordance with national, state, and local codes and permits.

When selecting common PVC fittings, use of schedule 40 or 80 pipe is recommended. It is not
advisable to use lower pressure rated drain, waste, vent (DWV)-style pipe and fittings for pool
circulation systems. Though rare, occasionally copper pipe may be found in older pools.

To expedite the installation process, installers should have ample inventory of common materials
such as 90° elbows, 45° elbows, couplings, unions, valves, pipe, PVC glue and primer, threaded
nipples to attached to the pump, pipe thread compound or Teflon tape. Prior to installation, it is
important to inspect and note the threaded fitting size of the replacement pump housing. Most are
2” male pipe thread (MPT), and some pumps come equipped with the threaded fittings and
unions.

When inspecting the area, also measure the overall pump dimensions and compare the existing
pump to the replacement variable speed unit. Pay special attention to the suction port height, and
distance from pump suction port to discharge port as these critical dimensions vary amongst
pumps. Have a plan for how the replacement pump will fit and where it is best to make cuts
before the old pump is removed from service. Also note locations of junction boxes to ensure
sufficient wire and conduit is available.

Once preparation is complete and current electrical


consumption has been measured and recorded, removal of
the existing pump can begin.

The process for removing the pump is as follows:

1. Open the circuit breaker to disconnect electricity


to the pump.
Figure 7. Thread sealant or pipe
glue will help ensure fittings remain
2. Verify that the pump has been de-energized by connected and leak-free.
checking with an electrical meter.
Photo from Jeff Farlow, Pentair Water
and Spa, printed with permission
3. Disconnect electrical wires at the pump junction
box.

4. Mark the location and use pipe cutter or hacksaw to cut the discharge and suction pipe.

5. Remove the existing pump.

10
3.6 Installing a Variable Speed Pump
Once the existing pump is removed, ensure that the work area is clean and free of obstructions.
Place the replacement pump in position and align the suction and discharge pipes. Shims may be
required to compensate for varying pump heights and should be used to create a level and stable
connection height. Install threaded fittings in pump suctions and discharge ports using thread
sealant.

Avoid installation of 90° elbows directly into the pump inlet as these greatly increase friction or
total dynamic head (TDH). If the installation allows, install a length of straight pipe at the
pump’s suction port that is equal to five times its diameter. For example, with a 2” diameter pipe,
it is recommended to install a straight pipe 10” long prior to entering the pump’s inlet. This
practice will aid in the pump’s priming and general performance.

3.7 Connecting Fittings and Making Electrical Connections


After all fitting and connections have been made, reconnect the electrical conduit and wires per
national, state, and local codes. Also, ensure the ground bonding wire is connected to the pump’s
bonding lug.

Most existing single-speed pumps are electrically


powered through a timer or automation system to
schedule their daily operation. Newer variable speed
pumps have the time clock and scheduling feature
inherent in their control system. For these pumps, it is
preferable to wire them directly, bypassing the existing
time clock. For installations with remotely operated Figure 8. Make sure the ground
automaton systems, the pump may be powered through bonding wire is securely fastened
to the pump’s bonding lug.
relays. This is done to ensure that the pump has a
continuous uninterrupted power supply. Photo from Jeff Farlow, Pentair Water
and Spa, printed with permission
3.8 Calibrating Variable Speed Pump for
Optimum Performance
After installation is complete, the installer must program the new pump to obtain adequate
filtration, in-pool circulation, and water clarity while using the lowest possible motor speed.

Filters only capture what is suspended in the water


passing through them, and only what is large enough to
collect on the filter media. Once debris and sediment
enters the water, one of three things will happen: it will
float, sink, or get suspended in the water. Floating matter
can be skimmed off the surface to be collected and
removed, but once it sinks to the floor, it will stay there
without some kind of help to remove it. Variable speed
pumps need to run longer to accomplish the required
turnover due to their lower flow rates. As a result, the Figure 9. The skimmer is the port
pool spends much more time skimming the water and that draws water from the pool and
preventing debris from sinking. The result is a cleaner into the filtration system.
pool with improved water clarity and is another benefit Photo from Jeff Farlow, Pentair Water
and Spa, printed with permission

11
derived from running pumps at a slower rate and for
longer periods of time.
Caution!
The variable speed pump should be set up to operate at a
speed that will turn over the pool volume at least once During the removal and
installation process, air can
during every 24-hour period. For pools with high debris enter the system and become
and/or bather loads, additional turnovers may be required pressurized. Excessive
to maintain adequate water quality. In no event should pressure can result in an
the turnover time be less than six-hours during normal explosion of the filter housing.
operation. Before system start-up, the
pump and system must be
manually primed and
Reducing the flow through main drains by throttling the evacuated of air. Care should
drain’s return line valve (if applicable) can improve be taken to vent system air
skimmer performance by providing the pump with most, through the filter’s manual
or all of the water from the skimmer. However, this relief valve.
configuration must be tested to confirm the pump is
supplied with enough water when operating the pump at
the highest speed needed by the pool. This is often not the highest speed at which a pump can
operate and should only be high enough to achieve the intended purpose, such as operating
cleaner therapy jets, or a water feature.. Essentially, the goal is always to provide sanitation and
to accomplish the desired feature operation at the lowest flow rate.

The start-up flow rate may need to be higher for several minutes to fully prime the pump, purge
air from the filter, and fill solar panels with water. Once these start-up tasks have been
completed, the pump speed can be reduced to the energy efficient low-speed setting.

Pools sometimes need higher turnover flow rates. For example, following a storm or pool party,
higher turnover flow rates may be required It is advantageous to have this feature set up in
advance to provide the pool owner with a mode that will temporarily override the normal
filtration flow rate without the need for reprogramming the pump controller.

3.9 Verification and Filtration Flow Rate Testing


Always follow the pump manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines, especially the warning and
safety instructions. The instructions listed here are not intended to be comprehensive and do not
substitute for adherence with the manufacturer’s instructions.

During the removal and installation process, air can enter the system and become pressurized.
Before system start-up, the pump and system must be manually primed and evacuated of air.
Care should be taken to vent system air through the filter’s manual relief valve.

Caution: do not run the pump dry. To prime, remove the strainer pot lid and fill the pump with
water until the level reaches the suction port, and then replace the strainer pot lid. This prevents
the pump from running dry, which will damage the mechanical seal. Start by opening the manual
relief valve on top of the filter and then press the button to start the pump. Next, you must bleed
air from the filter until a steady stream of water comes out, and then close the manual air relief
valve.

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Remember, the basic premise of variable speed energy-saving pump operation is “run it slower
and run it longer.” By running the pump slower, a slight reduction in water flow (gpm) will
greatly reduce the electrical demand (kW). By reducing the flow rate, runtime will have to
increase to ensure that the water is adequately filtered and mixed.

After the pump has been started and is successfully circulating water through the filtration
system, filtration flow rates need to be verified. Water is supplied to the pump from both the
skimmers and main drains; however, the skimmers should supply the majority of the flow.
Minimum filtration flow rates need to ensure that the skimmers function adequately. Most
skimmers take approximately 25 gallons per minute (GPM) of flow for adequate performance.
Verification of performance can usually be accomplished by visually observing surface water
drawn into the skimmer face and over the weir door. Skimmer baskets need to be checked and
cleaned regularly. Main drain flow should complement the skimmer flow but should be
minimized to prevent suction entrapment hazards. The main drain and suction covers should be
visually observed. A broken or missing drain cover poses a serious health risk and should be
replaced immediately, even before the pool is returned to service.

3.10 Programmable Pumps and Maintenance


Note that some variable speed pumps may be capable of producing a maximum flow rate higher
than the existing single-speed pump. Excessive flow rates can present hazards such as suction
entrapment. Use caution when installing and programming to limit pump’s performance potential
with old or questionable equipment and to avoid suction entrapment hazards.

Many variable speed pumps have the ability to schedule features throughout the day. As such,
the pump may unknowingly start to initiate a scheduled feature. Never leave the pump
unattended and power supplied while the pump is in an unsafe condition unless the pump’s
programming cycles are understood (for example, strainer pot lid removed or pipes not
connected and system not primed).

Maintenance for variable speed pumps is generally the same as that for single-speed pumps.

Pump strainer baskets (sometimes referred to as “hair and lint pot”) must be kept clean of leaves
and debris at all times. A dirty basket can impact pump and system performance and make the
system difficult to prime.

Protect motors from heat by ensuring that there is shade from the sun and that ample ventilation
is available. Particular attention should be paid to the motor’s fan cover and cooling fins to
ensure there are no obstructions to air flow.

Motors should also be protected from dirt and moisture. Avoid splashing with water. Do not
store or spill chemicals next to the motor. Avoid installations next to lawn sprinklers and protect
them from the weather.

Some variable speed pumps come equipped with freeze protection to assist with winterization.
This feature will automatically start the pump when temperatures reach a predetermined level to
prevent freezing of the pipes. Whenever systems are drained, power should be removed from the
pump to avoid inadvertent starting of the pump.

13
Once the variable speed pool pump has been successfully installed and tested, the next critical
step is to train the homeowner on the capabilities, functions, operation, maintenance,
programming, and potential risks associated with the new pump. In order to ensure that energy
savings are actualized, the homeowner must understand that the lower flow rates will provide
adequate filtration for the pool However, it is also important to educate the homeowner on the
signs of a potentially unclean pool and equip them with information and knowledge to maintain a
healthy swimming environment.

The final step in installing the new pump is to accurately measure the energy use of the new
pump and compare it the findings when you measured the energy use of the old pump. This
comparison will act as a guide for the homeowner to understand optimum pump use and
potential savings.

14
Attachment A: Prescriptive Measure Checklist
The nature and scope of installing a variable speed pool pump can vary substantially. Based on these
guidelines, the checklist below is presented as a potential framework (though not an exhaustive
resource) for conducting existing pump removal and new pool pump installation.

1. Inspect the pool and pool pump area for significant risks. Are any of the following
present?

If the answer is YES to any of these or if other serious risks are identified, do not proceed
with work until the risks have been addressed.

Exposed wiring or electrical concerns YES NO

Pests, aggressive pets, or dangerous animals present YES NO

Significant structural damage to pool or filtration system YES NO


plumbing

Caustic or toxic chemicals present YES NO

2. Calculate the volume of water (in gallons) of the swimming pool.

For details, see section 3.2 of main document.

Basic equation for calculating pool volume in gallons:

Length x Width x Average Depth x 7.48 = total gallons

Length

Width

Average depth

Total volume of water in gallons

15
3. Determine the wattage and energy consumption use of the existing pool pump.

For details, see section 3.2 of main document.

Basic equations for calculating kWh, daily and annual usages are:

Task Result
Existing pool pump power in kW (as
determined by using RMS kilowatt meter)

Daily kWh usage


kW x hours of use per day = kWh/day

Annual kWh usage


Daily kWh usage x days per year of
operation = annual kWh usage

4. Remove existing pool pump.

For details, see section 3.4 of main document.

The steps for pump removal are as follows:


1. Open the circuit breaker to disconnect electricity to the pump.
2. Verify that the pump has been de-energized by checking with an electrical meter.
3. Disconnect electrical wires at the pump junction box.
4. Mark the location and use pipe cutter or hacksaw to cut the discharge and suction
pipe.
5. Remove the existing pump.

5. Install new variable speed pool pump.

For details, see sections 3.5 and 3.6 of main document.

The steps for pump installation are as follows:


1. Place replacement pump in position and align suction and discharge pipes.
2. Shim as needed to create level and stable connection.
3. Install threaded fittings using thread sealant.
4. Reconnect the electrical conduit and wires per national, state, and local codes.
5. Ensure the ground bonding wire is connected to the pump’s bonding lug.
6. Avoid installing pump in locations without shade from the sun or inadequate
ventilation.

WARNING: During the removal and installation process, air can enter the system and
become pressurized and lead to explosion. Before system start-up, the pump and system
must be manually primed and evacuated of air.

16
6. Calibrate and program flow of pool pump

For details, see section 3.7 of main document.

The steps for pump programming and calibration are as follows:


1. Determine the lowest flow rate possible for 24-hour turnover of the pool water
volume.
2. Program additional turnover rates for heavy use, but never greater than a six hour
rate.
3. Visually inspect that, at the minimum, flow rate water is entering the skimmer.
4. Visually inspect that the drain covers are in working order and are in place.
5. Review pump programming and operation with homeowner.

7. Calculate energy savings of new pump

For details, see section 3.8 of main document.

Task Result
Existing pool pump daily usage in kWh

New pool pump daily usage in kWh

Existing pool pump annual usage in kWh

New pool pump annual usage in kWh

Annual Saving kWh/year

17
Attachment B: Pool Pump Installation Case Study
In October 2010, the upgrades described here were completed in an attempt to reduce the pool’s
energy consumption and its owner’s electricity bill.

California has a tiered electric utility rate structure, so the more kilowatt-hours used, the more
customers pay per kWh. It ranges from $0.12 to $0.40 per kWh, and swimming pools almost
always correlate to the higher rate. Before the upgrades, it was costing $2,100 per year to run the
filtration, cleaner, light, and solar heating of this 20,000-gallon pool. A separate waterfall pump
also consumed energy, but was rarely used because it was loud and inefficient.

Before
1½-hp standard pool pump (for filtration and solar heating); sweep-style
pool cleaner with a ¾-hp booster pump; 2-hp waterfall pump; one 500
watt incandescent light

The original single-speed pump ran an average of six hours per day during the summer months,
drawing about 2100 watts for filtration and heating. The pool cleaner’s booster pump, which ran
for about 2.5 hours per day, drew an additional 1400 watts. Combined, these two pumps were
using an average of 16 kWh per day.

After
Variable-speed pump (for filtration, solar heating and pool cleaner);
Second variable-speed pump for waterfall; LED lighting

The variable-speed pump draws 221 watts during the low-flow filtration cycle, and 650 watts
when it speeds up to operate the pool cleaner.

The cleaner’s booster pump is no different (3.4 kWh per day). Together, that is 16 kWh per day
in the summer. The new variable-speed pump requires only 1.3 kWh per day for filtration and an
additional 2 kWh for cleaning (as shown above), for a total energy use of 3.3 kWh per day after
the retrofit. That is a difference of 12.7 kWh per day (16.0 – 3.3 = 12.7) in pumping energy
savings.

Table 3. Single-Speed Pool Pump Replacement with Variable Speed Pump Operating Cost
comparison

FILTER PUMP OPERATING COST COMPARISON


Old pumps New variable-speed pump
Function
summer winter summer winter
2092 watts 6 hours 2092 watts 4 hours 221 watts 6 hours 221 watts 3 hours
filtration per day 12.6 kWh per day 8.4 kWh per day 1.3 kWh per day 0.66 kWh
$153 per month $102 per month $16 per month $8 per month
(year round) 1372 watts 2.5 hours per day (year round) 650 watts 3 hours per day 2.0
cleaner 3.4 kWh $42 per month kWh $24 per month

18
A single-speed waterfall pump has also been replaced with a second variable-speed pump. The
old waterfall pump was so loud it was difficult to talk over, and there was no possibility of
changing the waterfall’s volume of water or sound, so it was rarely used. Plus, it cost almost $1
per hour to run. With a variable speed pump running the waterfall, the look and sound of the
waterfall are adjustable, and, even at higher speeds, the pump is exceptionally quiet. The result is
a quieter, more pleasant experience at a far lower energy cost. Best of all, it uses about 900 watts
on its high setting compared with more than 2400 watts used by the old single-speed pump, and
less than 200 watts on its lower setting.

Table 4. Waterfall Pump Operating Cost Comparison.

Old single-speed pump New variable-speed pump


905 watts – high flow / $0.36 per hour 351 watts medium flow
2418 watts / $0.97 per hour
/ $0.14 per hour 187 watts – low flow / $0.07 per hour

The pool’s lighting was also upgraded from a 500 watt halogen to a 50 watt LED, giving it a
brighter, more dramatic appearance, as well as the ability to change colors. The improved filter
performance also enhances lighting because the water is clearer. More importantly, LED lights
are rated to last 20,000 hours, compared with about 4,000 hours expected of the pool’s original
halogen lights. As such, they require replacement far less frequently.

The net savings from changing the pumps and lights is about $125 per month, plus additional
savings in reduced filter costs have a total savings of $1,670 per year. In addition, the filter is
performing better and more efficiently due to slower flow. As a result, the pool water is cleaner,
the water clarity has improved, and the appropriate sanitizer levels are maintained.

19
Attachment C: Material Specifications
When specifying pool pumps, labeled NSF Certified, and UL registered products should be selected.
NSF is a mark signifying the evaluation to NSF Standard 50 for Self-Priming Centrifugal Pumps for
Swimming Pools, spas, and hot tubs. A UL mark signifies evaluation to U.S. Standards UL1081 for
Permanently Connected Swimming Pool and Spa Pumps.

20
References
U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Appliances in U.S. Households, Selected Years,
1980-2001” U.S. Energy Information Administration.
http://www.eia.gov/emeu/reps/appli/us_table.html. Accessed June 12, 2011.

The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals. “ANSI/APSP/ICC – 15 American National


Standard for Residential Swimming Pool and Spa Energy Efficiency” The Association of Pool
& Spa Professionals, www.apsp.org

Michigan State University, “Pests of Pools.”


http://www.pested.msu.edu/Resources/bulletins/pdf/2621/E2621chap2.pdf Accessed June 20,
2011.

U.S. Energy Information Administration. “Average Retail Price of Electricity to Ultimate


Customers by End-Use Sector, by State, February 2011”.
http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_a.html. Accessed June 23, 2011.

Best Practices for Energy Retrofit Program Design – Best Practices White Paper, copyright
2010, Home Performance Resource Center.

Synergies in Swimming Pool Efficiency: How Much Can Be Saved?, J. Rivera, C. Calwell, L.
Moorefield, Ecos Consulting for the Natural Resources Defense Council, March 24, 2008.
i
The California Energy Commission’s Title 20 Appliance Efficiency Standards require that any
pool pump with total horsepower of 1.0 or greater must be capable of operating at two or more
speeds. Further, section 165.3 (g)(5) requires all residential single-family pool pumps to be
operated by a programmable controller capable of switching speeds automatically and defaulting
to the low-speed setting after 24 hours if manual high-speed override is activated.

21
DOE/GO-102012-3534 ▪ May 2012

Printed with a renewable-source ink on paper containing at


least 50% wastepaper, including 10% post-consumer waste.